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South Korean Court Makes Huge Abortion Ruling

Judges overturn ban after 66 years
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 11, 2019 7:55 AM CDT
A woman wipes tears during a rally demanding the abolition of abortion law outside of the Constitutional Court in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, April 11, 2019.   (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
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(Newser) – South Korea is one of the last developed nations to criminalize abortion, but that's about to change. The nation's Constitutional Court declared Tuesday that the South's 66-year-old ban on the procedure is unconstitutional, reports the Guardian. Currently, a woman faces up to a year in jail or a maximum $1,750 fine and doctors face up to a two-year sentence for abortions, permitted only in the case of rape, incest, or rare genetic issues that put the woman's life in danger. The court ordered the national assembly to write a new law, declaring that the current one "is an unconstitutional rule that infringes on the self-determination of pregnant women," per the Wall Street Journal.

Further, the court declared that "embryos completely depend on the mother’s body for their survival and development, so it cannot be concluded that they are separate, independent living beings entitled to the right to life." The case centered around a female doctor who performed about 70 abortions and argued that the ban not only infringed on women's rights but endangered their health. Even with the ban, abortions have been widely accessible in the country, with an estimated 50,000 performed in 2017, per the BBC. Indictments are rare, and there has reportedly been just one prison sentence handed down in the last five years. The new law must be in effect by the end of 2020, and the government said it would respect the court decision. (Read more South Korea stories.)

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